Wednesday, August 27, 2014
The eastern coastline of India is called the Coromandel Coast, which is the anglicized version of "Chozhamandalam" - the domain of the Chozhas. From their capital at Thanjavur, the Chozha emperors ruled over a territory that at its peak covered all of south India, and most of the east coast up to Bengal. Rajendra Chozhan extended the influence of the Chozhas across the seas, taking over parts of today's Thailand, Cambodia, Lagos, Vietnam, Malaysia and Indonesia.
Rajendra's reign extended so far to the north that he was also titled 'Gangaikonda Chozhan', the one who acquired Ganga. It is by that title that he is referred to in this hall - Sree Gangaikondan Mandapam - in Triplicane. The hall is used for recitals, discourses and similar events, mainly associated with the temples in the vicinity.
But I am a bit confused. The hall seems to be associated strongly with symbols of Vaishnavism, including the images of Garuda at the corners of the roof. Rajendra was the successor of Raja Raja Chozhan, who had had the Brihadeeswarar Temple at Thanjavur, where Shiva is the main deity, built. That temple was the inspiration for his son to build a similar one at Gangaikonda Chozhapuram, which was also dedicated to Shiva. So, does this mandapam really go back to the Chozha times? Or is there some other Gangaikondan being referred to here?